In a series of weekly features, City Plus looks at destinations for weekend breaks out of Hong Kong and gives you a handy guide on what to expect, what to do and what to pay. This week, it's Hanoi in Vietnam. Why Hanoi? Because it is easily the most enchanting city in Southeast Asia, it is only 1? hours from Hong Kong and it is a great place to do your Christmas shopping. Ho Chi Minh City may have better nightlife and Bangkok may have better food and shopping malls, but no city this side of Rangoon has as much glorious colonial architecture or such a lively and absorbing street scene. This is not just another city to tick off your list of 'places visited' in the region. Stay in the Old Quarter, shop in the myriad streets north of Hoan Kiem Lake, eat out in superb restaurants at sub-dim sum prices, take a late night cyclo ride back to your hotel, and Hanoi is a place you will want to come back to again and again. And if you could afford to leave Hong Kong and live there, you would probably do it tomorrow. What's there to see and do? You can see Vietnam's revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh in person, embalmed and yellowing at his mausoleum on the edge of the city centre three decades after his death. You can get a break from the frenetic pace of street life and the constant danger of being mowed down by a motorcyclist as you cross the road by spending a quiet half hour in the Temple of Literature. You can see the remains of the infamous 'Hanoi Hilton', the prison where the French colonialists locked up political prisoners and where the Vietnamese later imprisoned downed American fighter pilots. But most of all, Hanoi is a city to explore on foot or by motorbike, stopping for regular refreshment breaks as you drink in the intoxicating atmosphere of a bustling, crowded and elegant small city where everyone seems in a hurry to get somewhere and everyone has something to sell. Where should I stay? In the older part of the Sofitel Metropole next to Hoan Kiem Lake if you want to enjoy colonial luxury in the heart of the city. No other hotel has quite the same character. If you are on a flight-only deal, however, the Old Quarter is teeming with good value, friendly mini-hotels with balconies overlooking narrow, bustling streets that capture the charm of Hanoi. Most have satellite TV, in-room high-speed internet connections, and most cost between US$20 and US$40 a night. Particularly recommended in this category are the Lucky Star Hotel at 11 Bac Dan and the Queen Hotel at 65 Hang Bac. What shouldn't I miss? Start the day with coffee and chocolate croissants at 252 Hang Bong, the place where Catherine Deneuve dropped by while filming Indochine. Shop for fake art at low prices in Hang Trong, where we saw one artist who was spending a month working on a giant copy of The Last Supper costing US$1,000 for a church in the United States. Buy your lacquerware and Christmas presents in the stylish craft shops in Nha Tho near the old cathedral, stopping for a mid-morning latte in the Cafe Moca, or in the bustle of Hang Gai. Get your hair cut by one of Hanoi's street barbers for 10,000 dong (HK$4.50) or less. Visit at least one bia hoi restaurant (the best one is in Ngoc Ha Street) where fresh beer costing 3,000 dong a glass is served up in primitive surroundings with surprisingly good food. Eat out at Seasons restaurant in Quan Thanh Street, a restaurant in an old colonial house with top-quality Vietnamese food that rarely disappoints. What one piece of advice would you give to a first-timer? Hire a motorcycle if you can ride one. It is better to be on one, dodging pedestrians, than to be a pedestrian in constant danger of being mowed down by a motorbike. Traffic has worsened considerably in recent years and the pavements are choked by parked motorcycles. What will a weekend there cost me? Hanoi is excellent value on air miles. It is close by and only costs 15,000 air miles for a return trip while flight-only deals are expensive at around HK$5,000. If you have no air miles, www.amextravel.com.hk offers two-night packages from HK$3,450 with the Sofitel Plaza option being particularly good value at HK$3,550. Westminster Travel ( www.westminstertravel.com ) has similar two-night packages which range from HK$2,950 staying at the Galaxy Hotel to HK$4,190 per person at the Sofitel Metropole with Vietnam Airlines or ranging from HK$3,050 to HK$4,290 with the same hotels if you opt for Cathay Pacific.